Friday, September 05, 2003

I just finished reading Lady Knight, which is the fourth of Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series and the third quartet set in Tortall (well, the fifth if you count the two quartets she wrote for "younger readers"). I have a tradition of only reading Tamora Pierce books when the entire quartet is available in mass market paperback, since I find all other sizes of book annoying to hold. However, I am thinking that I ought to get myself a set of Tortall books in hardcover, for posterity.

I want a copy of these books for two reasons. One, I'd like it if my children could read them. Two, my paperback copies won't last forever in storage, and I want to have a copy of them. I doubt that any other set of books (well, I suppose we can except Scripture) has stuck with me the way these have. Their imprint is on every word of Phoenix Earth (the influences on Phoenix Earth are many and varied, of course, but Pierce's Immortals quartet would be high on a list of influences ranked by level of influence). I can't imagine what Phoenix Earth would look like without the framework laid down by that first campaign - and what would that have looked like with no neomagic, no astral plane, no dragons? It all comes from Tortall.

But more importantly, and dearer to my heart, their imprint is on me. It was from Pierce's books, way back in elementary school, when I got my first glimpse of heroism, and all the things that are important to me - everything, from the fact that I like to dance to the way I process my relationship to Jesus - are ultimately founded on heroism. It was from Pierce's books that I first learned to work hard, whatever the odds - that I learned that a noble (read hero, man, woman, or whatever appellation makes most sense to you, but I meant and mean noble, literally) never complains, never gives up. It was from Pierce's books that I learned that the spirit which will not be conquered cannot be conquered, and that if you throw enough hard work at a situation you will win through. From Pierce's books I learned to despise bullies and cowards, to love courage and hate physical violence. And of course my entire attitude towards women stems from Pierce's books, the result of concluding some time in middle school that most of mankind treated most of womankind neither the way they deserved nor the way they truly wanted, and I was determined to be different.

I say "learned" but that's not quite right. I would have said that from Pierce's books I "vowed," but of course that's not quite right either, because it wasn't that conscious. It was a more unconscious process than that (but not a passive one) as I filtered through the messages that are found in those books - many excellent, some not - and the results of that filtering process sunk deep into my bones. I have, I admit, a certain suspicion that I was intended to find The First Adventure in the Canoga Park public library, that these books were intended to spark in me and provide fodder for the deep-seated (God-seated) love of heroes and adventure that forms such an inextricable part of my academic life, my Christianity, my masculinity, and - I suspect - will form such an inextricable part of my romantic life as well. I would not like to lose these books because they fell apart on me and were out of print. It will be good to pull them out every now and then - and I admit I have hopes that my wife and children will read them one day and go, "ohhhhhhh ... that explains a lot."

Along the same lines, but on a lighter note, I like lightsabers. A lot. I particularly like strong, capable, no-nonsense girls with lightsabers, which means I love Mara Jade (who ought to look more like the art in Mysteries of the Sith and less like Shannon Baksa, no offense to said model). It also means I am really, really looking forward to the release of Jedi Academy and Knights of the Old Republic (for the PC; I know it's out for X-Box) this fall. One of the perks to going back to school is that the start of fall is one of the major game-release seasons, and I am really looking forward to getting my hands on a lightsaber again. For the character interaction in Knights of the Old Republic, which I hear is good. For the chance to go, "I recognize that move!" (I recently watched the lightsaber duel from the end of Phantom Menace. If you look, you really can recognize basically all the stances and moves in the Jedi Knight games from that choreography. Thank you, Ray Park). And of course for all the other things that that lightsabers mean.

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